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Federal Court To Rule On Transgender’s Firing From Christian Funeral Home

Graveyard in Greece. (Youtube screenshot/Peter Chacona)Graveyard in Greece. (Youtube screenshot/Peter Chacona)

A federal court will rule Wednesday whether it was within the rights of Harris Funeral Homes owner to fire a transgender woman because of his gender identity.

The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals for the will hear the case regarding a transgender ex-employee who alleges he was wrongly fired from his job because of his decision to dress like a woman.

Michigan resident Aimee Stephens said he sent his boss, Thomas Rost, a letter in 2013 explaining that he felt he had been born in the wrong body and was really a woman according to WXYZ Detroit. He said he was going to start dressing as a woman and wanted to make Rost aware of the upcoming changes. After Rost fired him from his post, he sued on grounds of discrimination, but a lower court ruled against him.

Rost acknowledged that he had indeed fired Aimee because his religious beliefs didn’t allow him to feel comfortable having a transgender employee direct his funeral home business. Rost said it was his religious right and right as a business owner to let go an employee as he deemed fit.

Aimee and his attorney’s felt differently however, and continued with the suit. It’s wrong and it’s discrimination ACLU Deputy Legal Director Daniel Korobkin, who is a member of the legal team representing Aimee in the appeals case, said. “In America we employ people based on their qualifications, not whether someone is living up to their employers stereotypes of how a woman or man should behave,” he said.

Rost’s attorney’s argue differently, however.

“Here we have an employee who violated the company’s sex specific dress code. And that sex specific dress code is in place in order to ensure the utmost sensitivity to grieving families and the clients of the funeral home,” said Alliance Defending Freedom attorney Doug Wardlow. “He … runs his business according to his Christian principles. That includes the belief that a person’s sex is a gift from God that can’t and should not be changed,” said Wardlow.

Two transgender individuals also recently sued the state of Iowa because the state’s Medicaid coverage doesn’t provide insurance for sex reassignment surgery. A “transmasculine” teacher at an Oregon elementary school was awarded $60,000 by her school district as compensation for being referred to by the wrong pronoun. (Related: Transgender Teacher Gets $60k After Co-Workers Won’t Call Her ‘They’).

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